Sometimes fear is your friend, because it saves you from jumping off high places and getting hurt.
Usually fear is your enemy, because 99% of the things you’re afraid of are not even dangerous. They’re merely uncomfortable.
For most people, fear is the main impediment to happiness, success and self actualization. Lucky for you, there are multiple ways to get past fear, and they all fall into these two categories:
- Ignore your fears
- Transcend your fears
We’ll provide a quick overview of each approach here.
Ignore Your Fears
Modern (3rd-wave) psychology woke up one morning and realized that we can’t fix everything. We can’t take away all phobias, misperceptions and hurts, and if you wait until they’re gone before following your dreams, you’ll die before you ever get the chance to live.
Thus they present Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), which teaches you to go ahead and recognize your fears but always act based on your core values.
The point is that you may feel afraid, and that’s okay. Act anyway. Make a list of what matters most to you, make action plans, and when the fears start making you miserable, simply acknowledge them and then ask them to be quiet because you’re going to act anyway.
Sometimes fear will shout really loudly and really get in your way, but once you get started (the fear of starting is usually much worse than actually starting!), it usually quiets down.
Even if you prefer to Transcend Your Fears, it’s important for you to practice acting despite them as well. It builds valuable strength of character that will serve you well long after you’ve conquered all fear (if that ever happens!).
Transcend Your Fears
Building strength of character is all fine and good, but fear is uncomfortable enough that it limits your peace, happiness, and your success if you don’t yet have enough character to not mind it at all. Fixing it is so easy – so why not?
One great thing about fear is that it’s usually simple to treat by facing it in safe environments. It may feel terrifying for a moment, but fear often melts when faced with courage.
One approach to transcending fear is Acclimation and Desensitization Therapy.
First, get yourself in a very safe place, perhaps with supportive people who you trust. Once you feel safe, begin by exposing yourself to the safest possible exposure to your fear.
If you’re afraid of snakes, for example, look at the word “snake” written on a piece of paper. If this makes you nervous, then keep reminding yourself that you’re perfectly safe until the word no longer upsets you. When you’re ready for the next step, draw a snake and get comfortable with that, then look at an actual photograph, then visit a snake safely inside a cage, and eventually (if you want to go all the way), go to a pet store and ask a clerk to help you touch and then hold one.
Why not? It’s perfectly safe. Pet stores never sell rattle snakes.
Use this same process for any other irrational fear – afraid of asking for a raise? Get somewhere safe and imagine asking for that raise. Or role play with a friend. Only pay attention to encouraging thoughts, and imagine positive outcomes.
Remind yourself that everyone wants you to succeed! When you succeed, you make the world a better place and you become more pleasant and interesting to be around.
This process rewires your brain’s neural pathways (called plasticity) to no longer trigger irrational fear. Your comfort zone grows by leaps and bounds and then your performance, when no longer inhibited by your nervous tension, also improves.
PLEASE SHARE YOUR STORY about overcoming fear in the box below!! We’d love to hear it and perhaps it will inspire a reader (a University of Life student, that is) on the other side of the world.